If you're a software engineer, you are likely going to do a cold reach out at some point in your career. This is almost always true when you're a junior engineer and don't have too deep a network yet. However, most software engineers go about this aspect of professional networking in the wrong way, especially when it comes to job searching and interviewing.
Here's how to write a cold message that actually has a chance of getting a response:
- Mention your own background - If you have any credibility, use it. What accomplishments do you have? What makes you special compared to everyone else and deserving of a response from this person?
- Have a specific request - The more pinpointed your ask is, the less effort it takes for the other person to figure out how to help you. Don't just ask for help with things like "career guidance" or "helping you find a job" - These categories are far too broad. Ask for tips on clearer areas like how to resolve disagreements in cross-team meetings or how you can pass behavioral interviews with <50 person startups. For more advice here, check out our in-depth explainer on how to ask effective questions.
- Find commonality - Having common ground is one of the most important factors with a successful relationship. Whether it's working on the same tech stack, coming from the same school, or playing the same video game, share that commonality to make yourself feel more familiar.
- Build them up - At the end of the day, everyone enjoys being praised. Put them on a pedestal and explain why their input in particular is valuable to you. Show that you didn't send the exact same message to 100+ different people.
- Make up follow-up items clear - Don't just ask for "guidance" or "mentorship": Make it clear what's the exact form of help you want? Is it a link to a useful blog post or video? Is it a 30 minute 1-on-1 meeting?